May 5, 2016

Big data junkies still the biggest losers, even though / because they admitted they've been wrong all along

Copying a comment and my replies into a new post, now that the topic of big data and predictions are coming back into the air, as Trump has effectively secured the nomination and likely faces Hillary in the general.

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TGGP said:

Since I was predicting the opposite, it behooves me to say that you were right and I was wrong. I really underestimated how much support Trump could get and how much antipathy there was for Cruz in the Republican party. Nevertheless, I still predict he'll lose to Hillary in November, and those who disagree are welcome to bet against me and take my money, as could have occurred earlier.

My response:

Cheer up. The Trump army is going to Make America Great Again, and naysayers casting their hexes in prediction markets are not going to have any more effect than the tens of millions of dollars wasted in attack ads.

In the real world (outside intro stats textbooks), successes and failures are correlated. What failed for the GOP Establishment will fail for the Dem Establishment. They are effectively the same opposition, so one's attack will be a barely mutated version of the other's. And those who got it backward in the primary will get it backward in the general.

As bad as Bush was in the primary, Crooked Hillary will be as bad or worse in the general.

More interesting bets would be -- in which states does she survive? In which ones do write-in Bernie votes outnumber Hillary votes? How big is Trump's margin of victory in Michigan? Etc.

(Again, I'm not interested in robbing people blind over the internet. Just pointing out more interesting ways for the BIG DATA people to spend their time for the next six months.)

To re-iterate a point from this earlier post on "big data being the biggest loser" in this election:

Neither one of us has enough money to make the bet interesting. I would basically require you to risk $1 million, $10 million, etc. Something that would really stop and make you think.

Your idea of "skin in the game" is accepting daunting odds, rather than the absolute magnitude you would lose if wrong.

Not just your idea -- that's the whole approach of prediction markets, which show something like a probability bounded between 0 and 1. No mention of how much the losers stand to lose if they're wrong -- $1, $100, $10 million?

If we look at people who do have a shitload of money to lay on the line, and who normally do so in primary battles -- notice how many of them sat it out. Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers stayed out entirely, and most of the early big donors declined to put any more at risk when it was just down to Cruz and Trump.

Mega-donors staying out of the betting pool is a far more honest signal of how uncertain the outcome was, than whatever number of hundred-dollar or even thousand-dollar bets were being placed on the internet.

I still stick by the statement that it was highly uncertain what would happen. If the process played out fairly, it was guaranteed that Trump would win -- that was clear from last fall.

But what was uncertain was the lengths that any number of actors would go to in order to stop Trump from getting the nomination or the Presidency.

That uncertainty is still with us, of course (assassins, etc.), although much less so than before (RNC has capitulated). That's why some of the mega-donors are willing to help Trump's general campaign now.


  1. theo the kraut5/6/16, 7:17 AM

    TGGP, i've no informed opinion on this, but i bet you $50* just for the heck of it.

    * paypal ok? i'm in germany

  2. Good points. As Taleb would emphasize, even though we might assign probabilities to different scenarios for a question like "will Trump get elected", those probabilities don't actually describe reality (the true probability is either 100% or 0%, and no one knows it in advance), they only describe our own ignorance about the future. People really do seem to struggle to remember the huge difference between their expectations and actual reality.

    There's been a lot of memes around lately deservedly mocking Nate Silver for his confident predictions of Trump getting stumped on his way to the nomination. His supporters try to pass this off as "whatever, anyone can be wrong occasionally", but that misses the point. Silver's whole job is political predictions, and he openly staked his entire credibility on his anti-Trump call. And lost. If a gambler wins $1,000 over a series of modest pots, and then loses $1,000,000 in one big failed bluff, he is by definition a shitty gambler.

    Just another way in this election is taking a hammer to retarded conventional wisdom.

  3. You've got a deal Theo.

    It's true I don't have millions of dollars. I think reducing it an order of magnitude to be a significant percent of my net worth would count as having sufficient skin in the game (in a counterfactual in which I had quadrillions of dollars, betting millions would be no big deal), but I'm too risk averse for that. Tens of thousands is as high as I could see myself going, and you can call that cowardice if you want.

    Perhaps you know more about Nate Silver than me, but in what way did he stake his entire reputation on his Trump prediction rather than this being one of many he's made?

    As for why I think the general will be different: Trump was always leading the polls, but in a divided field I (like many) assumed the anti-Trump forces in the party would unite to stop him. In the general it's going to be one-on-one, Trump vs Hillary. Hillary already beat one populist, and she's also well ahead of Trump in most polls.

  4. Hillary didn't "beat" a populist -- she's going to barely limp across the line in pledged delegates, after many more Bernie-favoring contests, including California. And in the general election, there will be no superdelegates to save her sorry ass.

    Have you noticed any difference in willingness to win on the side of Bernie vs. Trump, that might make Trump vs. Hillary a little different from Bernie vs. Hillary? Trump will clean her clock on a wider range of issues, as well as her personal history -- persecutor of Bill's sexual assault victims, orchestrator of a scam charity (Clinton Foundation), lesbian lover has deep family ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.

    Turnout is down by double-digits in Dem primaries vs. 2008, and the only thing keeping it from being down triple digits is Bernie.

    With the Republican primaries and Trump, exactly the opposite.

    Hillary's big wins are mostly in states that won't go Democrat, either through inertia or as specifically anti-Trump states. Like the South.

    The harbinger of things to come is Michigan. Forget the conceptual stuff for now about Rust Belt etc. Just look at the numbers: Trump won handily, and Hillary lost. Ipso facto favors Trump. But then look at the Dem primary numbers -- 100% INCREASE in turnout, which turned out to favor Bernie, not Hillary.

    It's one of the few states that saw increased turnout on the Dem side, and the only one to be so gigantic (triple digits). If you think these people who are as numerous as the entire 2008 Dem primary electorate, and who delivered a victory for Bernie, are going to turn out for Crooked Hillary, guess again.

    As for polls, there is no real contest between Hillary and Trump right now, the Dems and Dem-leaners are still focused like a laser on their own contests. So polls mean nothing -- they also suggest that Kasich would be the best vs. Hillary, but everyone knows that's horseshit.

    What are the trends? Hillary is sinking and will continue to sink. Trump is surging and will continue to surge.

    Project that six months forward, and at some point the lines cross.

    Trump in a wipeout victory -- bet on it.

  5. "Perhaps you know more about Nate Silver than me, but in what way did he stake his entire reputation on his Trump prediction rather than this being one of many he's made?"

    It's the rhetoric. Many, many times he asserted as a certainty that Trump wouldn't make it. See for example here where he calls Trump "delusional" for expecting lock up the nomination by mid-May:

    See also any of the memes floating around with collections of 538 headlines saying "Relax, Trump will never win the nomination".

    It's one thing to make a prediction while still acknowledging you could be wrong. But to claim certainty like Silver did is like betting all your chips on a single hand, or offering someone 1,000,000:1 odds as a show of total confidence. Silver did that and lost, and now there's no reason anyone should take him seriously as a political prognosticator ever again. For the foreseeable future he's just a rat-faced schmuck wearing a huge sign saying "THE GUY WHO FAILED TO PREDICT THE RISE OF TRUMP".

    Meanwhile agnostic has been killing it with his commentary on this election, and he apparently only does this as a hobby.

  6. Ok, realistically California is heavily favorable to Clinton with the minorities and all, we don't have to pretend to be berniebros here.

  7. Random Dude on the Internet5/6/16, 11:31 PM

    Trump will win in a blowout. For the first time ever, Hillary is going up against someone who will actually take her to task on something. Unfortunately for her, it will be someone who destroyed the Bush political empire, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, and is in the process of humiliating Paul Ryan to where I can see him no longer being Speaker by the end of this year thanks to Trump.

    Trump's left behind a yuge amount of carnage and the media is comforting themselves by talking about identity politics. With Trump starting to attack Clinton, he will also be boosting Sanders' performance, especially in California. She's going to collapse in the polls once the cucks stop whining about Trump. The media will get as much mileage as possible but I'd say by this time next week, it will be old news.

  8. Oh boy. I dealt with a mega-cucked MN evangie GOP delegate the other day. Didn't know it until a day later when my boss told me that this woman was, of all things, a delegate (didn't know or say if she's going to the convention this summer, though). Both of them are anti-Trump gen X-ers still more concerned with fetuses and PC decorum than they are with gettin' things done.

    It looks like decades of culture war nonsense (since circa 1980) and PC (since circa 1990) are proving to be hard to shake for X-ers. Boomers got to spend 15-35 years of their lives before this crap got rolling, though of course they themselves perpetrated a lot of it. Still, Boomers would like to escape the gotcha! era the most. They shake their heads about how alienated, prissy, and whiny younger people are. People used to be a lot more optimistic, cheerful, and magnanimous. Enough with the angst and policing of thoughts and statements. Suck it up, make something of yourself, and start forging ahead. Or rather, back to the future, given the revival of populism not seen since perhaps the early 80's.

    WRT dumb predictions, it's really tough to accept something if it simply does not obey the rules established in the recent past. It's a new age. Trump is not a continuation of the past; he doesn't neatly fit the approved GOP model (nor does Sanders fit the approved Dem model). The stubborn "traditionalists" and fatalists can't face even the possibility that a life without greedy excess/culture bickering/PC/crass ID politics is looming.

    I mean, you've got Trump promising to immediately halt the passage of renegade strivers by building a wall upon half of America's border. A cold hard slap to the faces of people who put themselves ahead of the common good. Time to pick the right side before you're mired in a dwindling class of glib nationless elitists and morose culture zealots.


    The King of Neocons against Trump.

  10. Maybe Romney running would be a good thing -- split the Establishment / elitist / globalist vote, in a climate where populism and America first are being selected for.

    It would be like Anderson bolting the Republicans in 1980, and helping to split the liberal vote in a climate where conservatism was being selected for. Reagan still would have won with over 400 electoral votes, but Anderson splitting the lib vote helped Reagan win lib states like Massachusetts, New York, and Wisconsin.

    Romney running on a retard ticket with some other flunky would be a powerful recruiting sign for Trump -- any Dems, independents, or non-voters who were a little anxious or wary of voting for the Party of Stupid, would join enthusiastically if they knew that the Romneys and Bushes of the Party had been kicked out.

    "Folks, don't worry about all that dead weight -- that baggage has been thrown overboard. Look, there's Mitt now, drowning and choking as always! He's saying, 'Please, please! Throw me a life preserver -- I'm choking and drowning!' What a disgrace. Should we throw him a life preserver, huh folks? No? Ah, the hell with him..."

  11. "It looks like decades of culture war nonsense (since circa 1980) and PC (since circa 1990) are proving to be hard to shake for X-ers."

    Reminder that your generation, in addition to being retards, are already stuck in the past -- "It's 2015".


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